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SELESTAT, France (VN) – Three years ago, the men’s Tour de France passed through the small city of Sélestat, which sits in the Alsace region 17 kilometers from the German border.
According to mayor Marcel Bauer, the route was initially supposed to skirt the town by five kilometers. Hopeful for the hype that the race could bring if it passed directly through Sélestat, Bauer rang ASO director Christian Prudhomme with the request.
And Prudhomme granted it.
Last year, the tables were turned as Prudhomme called Bauer with his own request — would the mayor like Sélestat to be a departure city for the brand-new Tour de France Femmes?
“There was no hesitation,” Bauer told VeloNews.
Bauer said that the ask would cost his city of 20,000 residents €35,000, but that it was an easy decision.
“I’m very proud to have the Tour de France. It’s very important just to be in the list of cities for start and arrival, so just to be on the list, there’s no hesitation to pay 35,000.”
Arrival cities have to pay nearly double that at €60,000, but Bauer indicated that he would pay that price, too, if asked. The Tour de France name is that important, including when it has a ‘Femmes’ tacked onto the end.
Bauer said that he never doubted that the Tour de France Femmes would bring a similar level of stoke as the men’s race. Furthermore, he believes that the race was overdue in coming.
“I was 100 percent sure about the success,” he said. “Just the name Tour de France is so important, so popular. Everyone wants to come. You can’t only organize a men’s Tour de France, you also need to offer the sports to girls. It’s important to have a level that’s representative for the sport.”
Bauer has experience rallying Sélestat and its residents around bike races. Mayor for 21 years, during Bauer’s tenure the town has played host to another bike race every year. The Tour Alsace, a 2.2 category UCI race, always passes through Sélestat, he said — well, when the Tour de France doesn’t.
Bauer opted for the Femmes this year and said that the city’s experience with the Tour Alsace made it a cinch to organize.
“It’s not difficult,” he said. “We have many such kinds of events, maybe sometimes smaller. Every year, it’s a very important place for the Tour Alsace. Tomorrow we have a bike race for teenagers. We have a lot of local bike races here. The people working for the city are used to doing it.”
It helps that the mayor is a huge cycling fan himself. If Bauer’s friend — who helped translate this interview — was telling the truth, hosting the Tour de France fulfills a lifetime goal for the city official.
“His nickname was ‘bicycle’ as a child,” the friend said. “He was quite slim then, of course.”